Western Balkans Overview Jan 8, 2024 – CWBS

Western Balkans Overview Jan 8, 2024 – CWBS
  • Serbia’s parliamentary election results announced

As the Republican Election Commission reported on January 2,

List of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) “Aleksandar Vučić – Serbia must not stop” won 46.75% of the votes.

Opposition coalition “Serbia against violence – Miroslav Miki Aleksic – Marinika Tepic” gained 23.66%.

“Ivica Dacic – Prime Minister of Serbia” of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) sealed 6.55%.

NADA (Hope) coalition – “Dr. Miloš Jovanović – NADA for Serbia” has 5.02% of the votes.

“We – Voice of the People, Prof. Dr. Branimir Nestorovic ” gained 4.69%.

“Milica Djurdjevic Stamenkovski – Bosko Obradovic – National Assembly – State-Forming Force” of the Serbian Party Zavetniki and the Serbian Movement Dveri won 2.76%.

“Dr. Vojislav Sesel – Serbian Radical Party” gained 1.46%.

“Good morning, Serbia” (leaders Sasa Radulovic and Boris Tadic) has 1.18%.

“The People’s Party – sure choice. Serious people” has 0.88%.

“Cedomir Jovanovic – Things must be different” won 0.24%.

“Serbia in the West” has  0.14.

The results of movements representing national minorities:

“Union of Voivodeship Hungarians – for our president, for our community, for the future!”: 1.7%.

Coalition “United for Justice” of Usame Zukorlic and Tomislav Zigmanov: 0.76%.

“SDA Sandžaka – Dr. Sulejman Ugljanin”: 0.57%.

“Albanians’ political struggle continues – Shaip Kamberi”: 0.35%.

“Russian Party (Ruska stranka) – Slobodan Nikolic”: 0.3%.

“Albanian Democratic Alternative”: 0.08%.

“Together for the Future and Development – Coalition for Peace and Tolerance”: 0.18%.

  • Parliament will launch work in January, while government will be formed in February-March, according to President Aleksandar Vučić.

“We will try to complete constitutionalizing the Serbian parliament by late January and start forming the government by late February or early March,” he said.

Therefore, Serbia has a chance to get a new executive and legislative power only two months into the elections, which will be an unusually short period for Serbian political realities. Experts suggest that in this way the current Serbian authorities seek to affirm the legitimacy of the elections as soon as possible and remove any questions as to the violations recorded on ballot day, on December 17.

  • EU liberalizes travel for Kosovo nationals

At midnight on January 1, 2024, the visa liberalization agreement between Kosovo and the European Union entered into force.

The new rules allow Kosovo citizens to stay in the Schengen area without a visa for 90 days in any 180-day period.

The Republic of Kosovo, with a population of 1.8 million, was the last of the six Western Balkan countries to achieve visa-free travel from the EU.

In Pristina, visa liberalization is perceived as another step towards full recognition of the Republic’s independence.

  • Belgrade and Pristina allowed the free movement of vehicles with Kosovo and Serbia license plates

According to the Serbian government’s decision, from January 1, cars with license plates of the Republic of Kosovo are allowed to move freely on the territory of Serbia without the need to cover state symbols with stickers. A few days later, the government of Kosovo canceled the regime of mandatory stickers for Serbian-registered vehicles. The Kosovo government emphasized in a press release that the decision was an act of good neighborliness, taken after full recognition of Kosovo’s registration plates by Serbia.

Agreements on ensuring free movement of Kosovo and Serbia were reached in 2011 as part of the normalization dialogue mediated by the European Union, but the deal was never implemented to the required extent. Until now, drivers with Kosovo and Serbia license plates were supposed to use special stickers to affix state symbols on their license plates after crossing the border.

  • Hungary at the helm of EUFOR in BiH, in first

“In 2021, there was already a Hungarian commander of the (NATO) KFOR mission in Kosovo, and now, for the first time, a Hungarian general will lead the EU mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina within a year,” General László Sticz, who assumed the position on January 1 of Commander at the European Union’s Operation Althea in Bosnia-Herzegovina, emphasized in an interview with the Hungarian media.

Sticz said that EU forces would intervene “only if the Bosnian police cannot ensure peace.”

According to the general, the appointment of the Hungarian command for Operation Althea “is also important because peace in the Balkans is also our peace.”

  • Dodik again threatens to declare independence of Republika Srpska

Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik has threatened to declare independence if the High Representative of the International Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, adopts a law on state assets. He declared that Republika Srpska would prepare the move and declare independence immediately and without firing a single shot.

According to Dodik, Schmidt is expected to introduce the said law in January. If that happens, Republika Srpska will immediately proclaim independence, the Bosnian Serb leader said.

“If he (Christian Schmidt) says this any day at five o’clock in the afternoon, he should expect that at 23:00 we will convene Skupstina and proclaim independence. And that means independence in everything – a new financial system and territory under control of Republika Srpska,” he said.

Earlier in the Republika Srpska, a law was passed stating that the national assets located on its territory should belong to Republika Srpska, and not to the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to this Law, Republika Srpska owns assets on its soil, including farmland, forests, and rivers. The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina recognized the decision as unconstitutional. The high representative of the international community can, in accordance with his authority, himself adopt a law regarding state assets in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including in Republika Srpska.

The Office of the High Representative has already commented on Dodik’s statements, noting that Bosnia and Herzegovina is an internationally recognized state whose sovereignty and territorial integrity are guaranteed by the Dayton Agreement, the Constitution of BiH, and international law. Subjects do not have the right to secede and they exist only based on the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

  • Serbia preparing to renew army conscription

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Serbia and the Ministry of Defense forwarded to the President and Commander-in-Chief an official initiative to reinstate mandatory military service.

This was announced by the Minister of Defense of Serbia, Milos Vucevic.

The initiative to restore compulsory military service arose after an assessment of the security situation in the country since the rule was suspended 13 years ago, in 2011. “Our defense and security needs include having new recruits, recruits and a new force that always stands ready to defend the country. This does not mean that we are preparing for conflicts or some kind of war on the horizon,” the head of the defense department emphasized.

“Understanding all the circumstances of modern life, if the initiative sees support, a shortened form of military service for a up to four months will be offered. During this period, we could get trained soldiers and, of course, a safer and more protected state,” he said.

“Serbia’s stronger army is the highest guarantor of peace and freedom for our country,” Vučević emphasized.

  • London vows aid to Pristina in foreign policy, security, economic areas

The UK will promote the recognition of Kosovo by countries that have not yet done so, British Foreign Minister David Cameron said during a trip to Kosovo. “We are huge support of Kosovo’s independence, Kosovo’s sovereignty, and Kosovo’s right to be recognized by others as a fully sovereign country. (…) We are here to support you, to promote you, and to help you in all the ways we can,” he stressed. He noted that this is very important for UK’s national interests as “we live in a world of great insecurity and great instability, a world of great conflict” so it is time “where countries like Britain should be supporting our friends, working closely on our important alliances,” said David Cameron.

Highlighting the importance of stability of Kosovo and the Western Balkans for the whole of Europe, the top diplomat recalled that the UK had deployed more than 600 soldiers in Kosovo, increasing the British contingent in the wake of last year’s escalation.

The head of British diplomacy also announced an investment of GBP 45 million + this year.

During his visit, Cameron met with President Vjosa Osmani, Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Foreign Minister Donika Hervala, and British military personnel from the NATO’s KFOR mission. It was the first visit of the British Foreign Minister to Kosovo in the last eight years.

  • Opposition politician arrested, assaulted in Serbia

On January 3, the leader of the Serbian opposition Republican Party, Nikola Sandulović, was detained in his apartment in Belgrade. On January 6, the prosecutor’s office reported that Sandulovic had been taken into custody on charges of inciting racial, national, and religious enmity and intolerance.

According to the politician’s lawyer, his client was arrested after posting on X on January 2 a video about visiting the memorial complex in Kosovo.

The video shows him laying a wreath at the “Adem Jashari” memorial in the village of Prekaz. The memorial complex was established to honor the memory of one of the founders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) Adem Jashari and his family, who were killed during the operation of the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit of Serbia in March 1998.

Aleksandar Vulin, former Director of the Security Information Agency of Serbia, commenting on Sandulović’s arrest, said that the politician was detained upon his order, signed when back when he was still head of the BIA.

According to the lawyer, Sandulović was brutally beaten during interrogation at the BIA office, after which he was rushed to a military hospital. He is currently being held in a Belgrade prison.